Google's former "design ethicist" on "How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds"

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Tristan Harris was Google's "Design Ethicist" where he studied how design choices directly affect people's behavior in conscious and unconscious ways. He's also a practicing magician! As he says, "Magicians start by looking for blind spots, edges, vulnerabilities and limits of people’s perception, so they can influence what people do without them even realizing it." Over at Medium, Harris wrote a fascinating post about persuasive technology and how design can "exploit our minds’ weaknesses." From Medium:

Western Culture is built around ideals of individual choice and freedom. Millions of us fiercely defend our right to make “free” choices, while we ignore how those choices are manipulated upstream by menus we didn’t question in the first place.

This is exactly what magicians do. They give people the illusion of free choice while architecting the menu so that they win, no matter what you choose. I can’t emphasize enough how deep this insight is.

When people are given a menu of choices, they rarely ask:

• “what’s not on the menu?”

• “why am I being given these options and not others?”

• “do I know the menu provider’s goals?”

• “is this menu empowering for my original need, or are the choices actually a distraction?” (e.g. an overwhelmingly array of toothpastes)

"How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds — from a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist" (Medium)

Harris's piece supports the essay that my Institute for the Future colleagues Marina Gorbis and Devin Fidler recently posted about the incredibly high stakes of on-demand platform design: "Design It Like Our Livelihoods Depend on It" (WTF?) Read the rest

A Gift for You From Jacob Frey

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Watch this (please, the whole thing). Its title is "The Present," and it's a gift to you from Jacob Frey. Read the rest

Google to kill Flash by default in Chrome.

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Commanding two thirds or so of the browser market, Google's decision to turn off Adobe Flash by default in Chrome before 2017 seems like the end of an era that's always said to be ending.
Later this year we plan to change how Chromium hints to websites about the presence of Flash Player, by changing the default response of Navigator.plugins and Navigator.mimeTypes. If a site offers an HTML5 experience, this change will make that the primary experience. We will continue to ship Flash Player with Chrome, and if a site truly requires Flash, a prompt will appear at the top of the page when the user first visits that site, giving them the option of allowing it to run for that site (see the proposal for the mock-ups).

As usual, there are exceptions, starting with an official list of exempted Flash-serving domains. Can you guess what they are?

YouTube.com Facebook.com Yahoo.com VK.com Live.com Yandex.ru OK.ru Twitch.tv Amazon.com Mail.ru

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Russian Embassy in London tweets game screengrab, thinks it's real

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The Russian Embassy in London retweeted a screengrab from Command And Conquer Generals: Zero Hour along with the comment, "Extremists near Aleppo received several truckloads of chemical ammo." People replied with funny tweets.

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UPDATED RIP Ray Tomlinson, email inventor and at-sign popularizer

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UPDATE This is a couple months old -- I read "Mar 5" as "May 5." My apologies.

Ray Tomlinson created the first networked email system in 1971 while working on his MIT doctorate and collaborating on the early ARPAnet at BBN; he used @ -- the at symbol -- to separate the username from the machinename because "it did not appear in user names and did not have any meaning in the TENEX paging program." Read the rest

Tiny, 8-bit console designed for hackability and homebrew game development

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Pocket CHIP is a tiny, $50, ARM-based pocket games console with a full keyboard and a Bluetooth interface. Read the rest

Sex doll mistaken as angel by Indonesian villagers

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After a solar eclipse last month, a fisher in Indonesia's Banggai island region found a female figure floating in the sea. He brought the figure to his remote village where some believed it to be a bidadari, a kind of angel.

Police noticed images of the figure on social media along with reports that the fisher spotted the angel "stranded and crying." The police investigated and quickly determined that the angel was in fact a sex doll. According to the BBC, the police confiscated the doll. What a shame.

"They have no internet, they don't know what a sex toy is," the police chief said.

(BBC)

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Internet Talk Radio: Podcasting Like It Was 1993

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In 1993, I started a radio station on the Internet, engaging in activities that later became known as podcasting and webcasting. I'm pleased to say that I've finished uploaded the archive of Internet Talk Radio to the Internet Archive.

I ran the radio station from 1993-1996, and it was an exciting time on the Internet. Our flagship program was Geek of the Week, but we also were able to get one of the broadcast booths in the National Press Club to send out their luncheons, and joined the Public Radio Satellite system so we send out programs like TechNation. It was early in the digital world, so we were able to convince Harper Collins to give us Internet rights to Harper Audio, an amazing collection of people like Anne Sexton, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Frank Herbert and J.R.R. Tolkien reading their own work. We also managed to get official Congressional press credentials and ran tie lines into the basement of the Capitol to send out live feeds from the floors of the House and Senate.

We also did a lot of special programs (check out John Perry Barlow, Cliff Stoll and the United Nations 50th Anniversary and published some really cool SoundBytes you could use for alerts and notifications, and had a thriving Christmas practice going until Santa got mailbombed in a nasty DDOS incident. I also uploaded some early press coverage and some of the presentations and letters in my files.

We ran Internet Talk Radio as a nonprofit corporation called the Internet Multicasting Service. Read the rest

New study: Air rage triggered by walking through First Class

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A new scientific study reveals that air rage is much more likely on airplanes where inequality is obvious -- that is, airplanes where there's economy and first class sections. The University of Toronto researchers published their results in the journal Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences. From CNN:

It found that passengers in economy seating were 3.84 times more likely to have an incident of air rage if they were on a plane that had a first-class section. They were 2.18 times more likely to have an outburst if they had to walk through first class to board the plane, as opposed to boarding in the middle of the plane, directly into the economy section....

"Psychology (research) tells us that when people feel a sense of deprivation and inequality, they are more likely to act out," said Katherine A. DeCelles, associate professor of organizational behavior at the University of Toronto....

There was also a nearly 12-fold increase in the rate of air rage among first-class passengers on flights where all passengers boarded through the first-class section, compared with flights that had separate entrances for first class and economy.

"When people from higher social class backgrounds are more aware of their higher status, they are more likely to be antisocial, to have entitled attitudes and to be less compassionate," DeCelles said.

"Air rage triggered by walking past first-class seating, study says" (CNN) Read the rest

UK nuclear power plant will be the most expensive object on Earth

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The proposed nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset, UK is estimated to cost $35 billion. The BBC compares the price tag to other big ticket items:

For that sum you could build a small forest of Burj Khalifas - the world's tallest building, in Dubai, cost a piffling £1bn ($1.5bn). You could also knock up more than 70 miles of particle accelerator. The 17-mile-long Large Hadron Collider, built under the border between France and Switzerland to unlock the secrets of the universe, cost a mere £4bn ($5.8bn).

The most expensive bridge ever constructed is the eastern replacement span of the Oakland Bay Bridge in San Francisco, designed to withstand the strongest earthquake seismologists would expect within the next 1,500 years. That cost about £4.5bn ($6.5bn).

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More Google Earth anomalies

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Artist Clement Valla collects the most remarkable machine-vision nightmares and curiosities from Google Earth, a world whose parallels to our own become uncannier with each sweep of the satellites and Googlecars. [Previously. via] Read the rest

Watch these bulldozers battle over turf, for real

In China's Hebei Province, bulldozers from competing construction companies battled it reportedly over a business opportunity. According to ABC News, police finally put a stop to the insanity and two drivers were injured. Perhaps the operators have been watching too many Survival Research Labs performance videos.

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Japanese teen girl metal band Babymetal performs on Colbert

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Babymetal made their US TV debut when they performed their song "Gimme Chocolate!!" on Colbert's Late Show last night. Read the rest

Nixon's war on drugs was a war against blacks and the antiwar left

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In Dan Baum's excellent article in Harper's about the devastating consequences of the US government's war on drugs, there's a revealing quote from John Ehrlichman, Nixon's Watergate co-conspirator:

I’d tracked Ehrlichman, who had been Nixon’s domestic-policy adviser, to an engineering firm in Atlanta, where he was working on minority recruitment. I barely recognized him. He was much heavier than he’d been at the time of the Watergate scandal two decades earlier, and he wore a mountain-man beard that extended to the middle of his chest.

At the time, I was writing a book about the politics of drug prohibition. I started to ask Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away. “You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

I must have looked shocked.

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Former Toronto mayor Rob Ford dead at 46

Toronto Mayor Ford makes his closing remarks during a mayoral debate hosted by the Canadian Tamil Congress in Scarborough

Rob Ford, the former Toronto mayor famous for political scandals and drug abuse, is dead at 46. He was suffering from pleomorphic liposarcoma, a rare form of cancer.

In 2013, the Star revealed that Ford had attended a military ball intoxicated and then that a cellphone video apparently showed him smoking crack. That bombshell triggered months of controversy and worldwide headlines as Ford angrily denied, and then finally admitted, abusing drugs and alcohol. Council stripped him of most of his powers. …

In October 2014, following his re-election as councillor and in between chemotherapy treatments, Ford talked to reporters about his legacy. “People know that I saved a lot of money, and people are going to know that I had a few personal struggles,” he said. “So you can remember it for what you want, but they’re definitely going to remember it.”

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The Republican Munsters

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Chuck Ungar did a terrific job pasting the heads of Cruz, Rubio, and Trump onto Grandpa, Eddie, and Herman. Great lettering, too.

Here's the original for comparison:

[via] Read the rest

Mein Drumpf

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Welcome to what may well be our future, America.

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